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The Tricky Way to Save $30+ on Spirit and Other Budget Airlines

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Some know this trick and swear by it; others don’t even know it exists; some just flat-out refuse to fly bare-bones budget carriers.

But we’re here to set the record straight: Yes, you can save on budget carriers like Spirit, Frontier, or Allegiant by purchasing your tickets at the airport. In some cases, the savings can be substantial.

If you’re feeling extra thrifty, head to the airport to buy your next flight rather than checking out online. But is it worth the savings? That’s up to you to decide.

 

Why This Works

So, you can save nearly $20 each way on a Spirit, Frontier, or Allegiant flight each way when you purchase your ticket at the airport. But why?

Check out the price breakdown on your flights with one of these budget airlines when checking out online. You’ll see two sections: “Flight Price” and the “Government’s Cut.” The government’s cut includes a few different fees.

But what we’re concerned with is the flight price. In this case (and the case for many budget airline flights), the actual flight itself is 2 cents. You read that correctly: Your flight itself costs 2 cents. What makes up the vast majority of the flight price total is something called the “Passenger Usage Charge.” Here’s an example from a Spirit online booking:

 

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This is a fee that applies to all passengers when booking flights with Spirit, Frontier, or Allegiant online or by phone. Why do these airlines include this fee? They do not have to pay the 7.5% federal excise tax on fees.

Typically, this Passenger Usage Charge is around $18 – $19 per one way (so around $35 for a roundtrip flight, like you’ll see above). Because these three airlines don’t have to pay the excise tax on this part, the fee saves them $1 – $2 on each booking. That adds up fast, especially for budget airlines’ bottom line.

However, Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant can’t force this fee unless passengers can avoid that fee. Hence, the airport workaround! The only way you can avoid paying this fee is to head to the airport. On a budget airline flight, that Passenger Usage Charge fee is often nearly half of the total flight price.

Let’s take a look at how to find the potential savings for Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant.

 

Spirit

When searching or booking on Spirit’s website, you’ll see two sections under the purchase price: “Flight Price”, and the “Government’s Cut.” The government’s cut includes a few different fees, but the pesky “Passenger Usage Charge” that you’re trying to get waived is part of the actual flight price.

 

spirit passenger usage charge

 

Typically, this Passenger Usage Charge is around $18 – $19 per one-way Spirit flight. It’s important to note that these savings don’t apply to $9 Fare Club fares.

Considering many Spirit flights can get low into the double digits, that Passenger Usage Charge fee is often nearly half of the total flight price. In the case above, you’d save up to $35 off a $64 total flight if you booked at the airport. This could mean you’d pay as low as $20 for a roundtrip flight!

 

Frontier

You’ll find Frontier’s fee under “CIC”, or “Carrier Interface Charge.” Essentially, this is their fee for using the Frontier website to book. You can avoid this fee by paying in person.

 

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In the case above, you’d save up to $20 on this Frontier flight by booking at the airport instead. That would bring this flight down to $36 roundtrip.

 

Allegiant

As with the other two budget carriers, you’ll find Allegiant’s fee under the flight details. Click to view more on the taxes charges, and you’ll see the “Carrier Usage Charge.”

 

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Similar to Spirit, this fee is usually around $36 for a roundtrip flight. In this case, that’s half the cost of the flight!

 

Heading to the Airport

Saving up to 50% on your already cheap budget airline ticket sounds awesome, right? Well here’s the catch: you have to go to the airport to avoid this fee that usually clocks in at half your airline ticket on Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant.

For some, this will be easy. For others, it would cost too much in gas and parking or Uber fees for it to really make sense. But if you live close to the airport or have a regional airport with cheap and easy parking, this may be your ticket to even cheaper fares. Just keep in mind: You’re buying your ticket in advance and then returning home – not buying tickets the day of your flight.

Here’s how to prepare for your budget airline ticket booking at the airport:

  • Know exactly which flight you want to book (with a few back-up options) before you go. There’s nothing worse than getting there and not being sure which dates and times you want to travel. Use Google Flights to find the cheapest flights that work, then head to the airport to buy them.
  • If you’re going to the airport soon for a trip anyway, plan to leave some extra time to purchase a future flight at the desk before going through security or before heading home.
  • Know what times your airline is open for ticketing. These are Spirit’s preferred ticketing hours, Allegiant’s airport ticketing hours, and Frontier’s airport ticketing info.
  • Have a plan for the most affordable to get to the airport. Whether that’s taking public transit, parking at an affordable ramp, or having a friend drop you off and pick you up, that’s up to you! Just calculate whether the cost of driving to and/or parking at the airport is worth the money you’ll save.
  • Unfortunately, not every budget airline ticket agent will play so nice. So be persistent to ensure you get the entire fee waived.

 

With your fares picked out and a plan in place, head to the airport for your fee-free budget airline ticket.

 

Bottom Line

Is this little-known trick worth the savings? That’s up to you to decide. But this is a potentially easy way to make your cheap flights even cheaper.

 

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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

8 Responses

  1. Steven McKenna says:

    Does this work for Sun Country Airlines?

  2. Paul says:

    So you cannot do this if you are flying that day? I have been making a habit of buying last minute tickets in the morning of an afternoon departure. If I got there a little early, could I Book the same flight the day of to just head to Security?

    • Mikhala Stutzman says:

      Hi Paul! There doesn’t seem to be any problem with booking that day at the airport. Of course, you’d be subject to ticket availability, but this fee avoidance should work whether you’re buying a ticket for months in the future or the week of.

  3. Ab Yul says:

    Tricky? What’s tricky? How’s it more tricky than nearly every credit card points work around this site pushes out. You make it sounds like saving money on flights and beating the ULCC’s at their own game is less than honorable. How about changing the title of your post from tricky to smart. A smart way to save…
    As timing would have it I was just at MSP last evening buying both Spirit and Frontier flights and saved a lot of cash. Parked at the light rail lot and rode the train into the terminal. I literally bought a MSP-TTN on November 4 for $3 one way nonstop on Frontier. And on Spirit FLL-MSP nonstop January 20 for $42. Saved over $40. I’ve done this multiple times before and alway will when it makes sense. I calculated how much I’ve saved in total since I learned of this option and it’s approaching $500.

    • Mikhala Stutzman says:

      Hi Ab, thanks for your message! Our apologies — it was meant to be “tricky” as in it’s tricky the airlines make you do this to save, not tricky of those who do it. Great to hear you’re able to use this method to save nearly $500 on your flights — we love to hear that 🙂

  4. ANDREW GRIBBLE says:

    I priced a trip on their Website from MCO to CLO, and am seeing the following in the price breakdown:

    Flight $75.02
    Regulatory Compliance Charge $28
    Fuel Charge $48.00
    Passenger Usage Charge $45.98
    Passenger Usage Fee to Colombia $22.99

    What is the difference between the “Passenger Usage Charge” and the “Passenger Usage Fee,” and can both be avoided if the tickets are purchased at the airport?

    • Mikhala Stutzman says:

      Hi Andrew! Which airline are you looking at this booking with? The Passenger Usage Charge on Spirit is usually around $18 per one-way flight, and is what can be avoided by booking at the airport. I haven’t seen a Passenger Usage Charge and a Passenger Usage Fee both on the same ticket.

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